We’ve discussed deworming and worm prevention in previous blog articles, but I also wanted to discuss organic methods for addressing worms.
In this case, I am discussing intestinal parasite worms that can end up in your chickens’ digestive track and damage their health. Not earthworms!) The worms don’t allow your birds to fully metabolize and/or digest their food. If your chickens are eating a lot but remain very skinny or if they start to lose vitality and vigor, you may have a worm issue.
Now worms are all over the environment, and many chickens have worms present in their system but never feel any adverse effects. Also, if your chickens have access to a large area with lots of diverse vegetation and insects, they will most likely naturally rid themselves of any worms they happen to have in them regularly and naturally.
So that would be the first and easiest organic worm prevention or deworming technique – simply letting your birds have space to range freely.
Taking that into consideration makes me ask myself, so when my bird have full access to the property and a large area to roam in, what are the chickens doing that keeps worms at bay?
First of all space is important. I think this is obvious. If you have a high number of chickens kept in a confined and small paddock, you are compounding your worm problems. Worm eggs are spread in feces. If the feces is highly concentrated, then the chickens have almost no way to avoid picking up and infesting themselves with worms, and possibly re-infesting themselves over and over.
Preventing worms is always easier than curing. Even though my chickens roam over 3 acres and don’t show any signs of worm infestation, I like to specifically do a deworming treatment in late Spring and Fall. I picked those times of the year because we do get a lot of snow around here, and my chickens end up being confined or ‘cooped-up’ for many days of the winter months. So I figure that if I deworm right before the winter and then right after the confinement of winter, my deworming will be most effective.
In the fall my main deworming treatment is very, very simple and easy. I feed my chickens pumpkins and winter squash. Pumpkins and winter squash are in season then, so they are easy to find. A pumpkin is a perfect holistic worm treatment. Pumpkin seeds are coated with a natural phytochemical called cucurbitacin. Cucurbitacin is very effective at making worms release their hold on the membranes of the digestive system. The roughage of the rest of the seed then helps scrape the worms out of the system. The orange flesh and stringy pulp of pumpkin and squash also contain high levels of vitamin A and C, which are known for preventing parasites. The whole pumpkin or squash is also full of other nutrients that will boost your birds’ immune systems and help effectively eliminate the worms. If the pumpkin has started to rot and ferment a bit, it can even help replenish and strengthen the probiotics or good bacteria of the intestinal tract. Pumpkins and squash also keep well into the winter – so you can keep treating your chickens throughout the winter with a delicious treat.
Pumpkin can do a lot in preventing and treating worms, but there is more you can do to really attack a worm problem. Carrots, Garlic, Mustard Greens, and Chili Peppers are all known as natural and very effective vermifuges or worm-expellers. Adding these things to your pumpkin treatment is a great idea. Or using these instead of pumpkin in the spring works very well. The different foods contain a diversity of phytochemicals that can take care of other types of worms that the pumpkin treatment doesn’t address. You can hide any of these ingredients chopped up in something that you know your birds will gobble down fast. I’ve used canned salmon, pasta with cheesy sauce on it, and cottage cheese.
I like to add some extra bran or psyllium for extra roughage into my deworming treatment mash. During the regular summer months, I watch my chickens helping themselves to plantain and plantain seeds, which contain psyllium. Plantain is growing all over the place in almost everyone’s lawns and gardens.
You can also add yogurt or raw milk to your deworming regimen as these foods can help replenish and strengthen the natural good bacteria of the gut.
Adding nutritious spices like turmeric would be an extra bonus.
I don’t measure my whole foods ingredients. There is really no need as you can’t overdo it. And my recipe changes depending on what I have on hand or can find in the store.
Continue to feed the regular amount of layer feed while doing your deworming treatment. I usually just feed the treatment stuff first, so all the birds fully pay attention and partake in it rather than filling up with regular feed.
If you have a very bad worm problem or you have to keep your chickens in a closely confined situation, I’d plan on giving them a deworming treatment once a month for a period of 3 days at a time. Worms are on a 4 week moon-based schedule for their egg laying so planning your purge for every 4 weeks a couple days or so before the full moon would make your treatment most effective.
One of the best things about these organic deworming methods is that you can eat the eggs your chickens are laying during the treatment. With most non-organic methods, you have to wait several weeks for the chemicals and poisons to leave the birds’ systems before you can consume the eggs they are laying.
I love the beauty and simplicity of organic and natural methods. And I love the fact that if chickens are left on their own with space and diversity they naturally know how to take care of themselves.